Contradictory and convergent trends in law and policy affecting children in England
From the nineteenth century onwards child welfare policies in England have been based on the perception of children either as vulnerable, and thus in need of protection (the child as victim) or as impulsive/ unsocialised, and thus in need of guidance and control (the child as threat) (Hendrick, 1994). Both law and policy relating to children and their families reveal an underlying ambivalence when deciding what should be done for and about children. In recent years, following the election and re-election of the New Labour government in 1997 and 2001, an extensive range of new policies and laws which affect the lives of children both directly and indirectly have been promulgated. These developments have been contradictory as well as convergent. The overall aim of this chapter is to provide a critical analysis of the developments concerned, together with an examination of the different constructions of children and childhood from which they draw and into which they feed. We argue that, in the main, children continue to be rendered invisible by policy and professional practice. When children are visible and the focus of policy this is usually because they are located as being ‘troubled’ or ‘troublesome’. Thus, as in the past, contemporary children and ‘childhoods’ are inscribed by a political dimension.